Sat 13 Sep 14
at 14:30 PM
The Report: Blues 1 Leeds United 1
Blues were forced to settle for a share of the spoils after an entertaining encounter with Leeds United at St. Andrew's.
Wes Thomas deservedly edged the hosts ahead during a first-half in which Lee Clark’s side created by far the clearer openings. But Leeds came back into the contest after the interval and levelled matters 14 minutes from time through Alex Mowatt. It set up a dramatic conclusion with both teams going hell for leather to find a winner. Blues sub Demarai Gray produced an impressive cameo display, having a strong penalty appeal turned down as well as a terrific run and shot that almost brought about a decisive outcome. And Thomas may feel that he should have won it late on with a close-range header that flew the wrong side of the post.
New loanee Brek Shea was thrust straight into the starting line-up as one of four changes made by Clark. Neal Eardley, Jonathan Grounds and Thomas were all recalled with Jonathan Spector, Paul Robinson and Stephen Gleeson dropping to the bench and Lee Novak ruled out due to injury.
Shea looked lively early on, trying his luck from distance on nine minutes with a fizzing effort that stung the hands of Marco Silvestri. Leeds defender Giuseppe Bellusci then had his heart in his mouth after his back-header from Darren Randolph’s huge punt from the back drifted only narrowly wide of his own goal.
Blues continued to enjoy the better of the possession, carving out more chances with captain Paul Caddis missing his kick when well placed inside the area from Shea’s knock-down and Clayton Donaldson trying a speculative curling effort that veered only a couple of yards wide of the post.
Leeds rarely threatened the home goal during a generally scrappy first-half but from a rare visitors attack Mirco Antenucci let fly from 25 yards but got his shot horribly wrong as it flew high up into the Tilton Road stands.
The goal that Blues’ domination certainly warranted arrived eight minutes before the break. Debutant Shea played a key role in the build-up as his defence-splitting pass teed up Thomas who showed great composure to lift his shot high into the top right corner. It was well-struck effort that not only broke the deadlock but also the pole holding up the net, causing a nine-minute delay in proceedings as the St. Andrew’s ground-staff frantically went about replacing the offending item.
Blues were forced into a change at half-time with Grant Hall unable to continue due to a groin injury and replaced by Paul Robinson at the heart of the hosts’ defence. Clark’s men were straight back on the front foot after the interval with Shea winning his side a free-kick wide on the left. The big American picked himself up and ventured up into the box where he connected to David Cotterill’s in-swinging set-piece but saw his header go just over the bar.
Casper Sloth created a dangerous moment for the visitors as he raced free down the right and his pass looked set to land at the feet of Billy Sharp before Eardley’s timely intervention with a tremendous sliding tackle. Leeds kept up the pressure and Randolph had to be alert to push away Mowatt’s 20-yard shot. Sub Souleymane Doukara also tried an effort from a similar distance which bobbled just past Randolph’s right-hand post.
Having played little competitive football so far this season, Shea’s encouraging Blues bow was brought to a premature close midway through the half as he was replaced by teenager Gray. Fresh from making his England U19 debut in midweek, the 18-year-old made an immediate impact with a dangerous run and cross that Bellusci did well to clear. The tricky winger was in the thick of the action again moments later, crashing in a shot from the edge of the box that was beaten away by Silvestri.
Just when it looked as though Blues had regained the upper hand, the visitors restored parity on 76 minutes. Eardley’s attempted headed clearance landed at the feet of Mowatt just inside the area and the teenager directed his shot beyond Randolph into the far corner. Buoyed by the goal, Neil Redfearn’s men went in search of a winner, which Mowatt threatened to provide as he ghosted in at the far post to head the ball back across goal but David Edgar was in the right place to clear.
Gray brought the home side back to life again with a tremendous jinking run past three Leeds defenders, and the last of those, Bellusci, appeared to trip the winger with his trailing leg. However, the referee adjudged it to be a dive and promptly booked the Blues man. Gray was not undeterred though and set off another terrific run that took him deep into the Leeds box but Silvestri was able to get his fingertips to the winger’s eventual shot and Warnock hacked the ball clear.
Both sides threatened to pinch victory in a pulsating climax to the match, with Blues coming the closest. Cotterill’s cross was met at the far post by Thomas but he sent his header wide of the post under pressure from Gaetano Berardi.
The result maintained Blues’ unbeaten start to the home league season but Clark and his players will probably see it as two points lost. But they get a quick chance to return to winning ways when they entertain Sheffield Wednesday at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday evening.